Due to turmoil in the Red Sea, fewer cargo ships are sailing through the Suez Canal. Instead, they take a detour through South Africa. Not only does this conversion take more time, but ships also emit more carbon dioxide.
A large sea container ship transports about 200,000 tons of materials from China to the Netherlands. This ship emits approximately 35,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. The journey takes about thirty days, so a cargo ship can make a round trip about five times a year. During the return trip, this ship emits 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
But due to Houthi attacks, more and more ships are choosing to turn around. The trip through South Africa takes longer, but is safer. In January, the number of ships transiting the Suez Canal decreased by 36%.
Research by Sea Intelligence, a maritime transportation consultancy, shows that this diversion causes a lot of additional emissions: more than 30 percent. But it's not just the longer path that affects additional emissions.
“For example, we also see that ships are sailing faster,” says Caper Rourid of the trade association for exporting companies. By running engines faster, ships move faster, but they also operate less efficiently and emit more carbon dioxide.
Onrust op de Rode Zee
Sinds eind vorig jaar vallen de Houthi’s schepen aan op de Rode Zee. Met de aanvallen willen zij hun steun betuigen aan Hamas en de Palestijnen.
Iets meer dan drie weken geleden vielen de Amerikanen en Britten de Houthi’s aan. Dat deden ze met grotendeels symbolische steun van onder meer Nederland.
Volgens de rebellen zullen de aanvallen hen “niet afschrikken”.
Emissions from thousands of cars increase on each return trip
“In addition, we are increasingly seeing small ships making the voyage, rather than the large ships that normally sail,” continues Ruread. Small ships are much less efficient. If a large ship and a small ship sail the same distance, the small ship emits 141 percent more carbon dioxide.
Taking all the factors into account, the small boat that takes the route around South Africa the fastest emits nearly 2.5 times the emissions on the route from Asia to the Netherlands. That's the annual emissions of about 27,000 additional cars per year per return trip.
Not all container ship cargo can handle the extra time at sea. Ornamental flowers or fruits are no longer valid upon arrival in the Netherlands if they have to remain in a container for several days longer. Rurid believes that this is the reason why more goods are being transported to the Netherlands by air. Airplanes are less efficient at transporting cargo than ships. This leads to more carbon dioxide emissions.
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